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How to do more with less: surviving the challenges of sports relegation

Relegation has an immense emotional impact on a club and its fans. While we shouldn’t underplay that impact, it’s arguably less business-threatening and easier to recover from than the financial impact that follows. Here’s how to recover from the pain of relegation.

Smaller, fewer, less

Relegation can have far-reaching effects on entire towns and the health of their infrastructure, with smaller crowds and fewer travelling fans bringing less revenue at the gate, coupled with fewer sponsorship and partnership opportunities for the club itself.

Smaller crowds can be a significant issue as the season draws on. Fewer gate receipts rapidly translate into less capital available to the club for improvements and new players, for example. Swansea City saw average crowds drop from 20,623 in 2017/18 to 18,758 in 2018/19 after being relegated to the Championship.

However, plenty of clubs have turned a die-hard core of fans into an army using modern marketing techniques to grow revenues and, crucially, remain front-of-mind with otherwise non-partisan fans. Sunderland AFC actually grew average attendance from 27,729 to 32,157 despite relegation to League One.  

Some issues can’t be fixed with a smart marketing campaign – at least not directly. TV revenues for clubs in the EPL compared to those in the Football League Championship are night and day. That’s not something that can easily be replaced.

Working smarter with limited resources 

With less disposable income and, sadly, the realistic prospect of a smaller team to use it effectively, clubs in the throes of relegation need to think about how they can do more with less. In marketing terms, that invariably means using data in a more innovative way. Automated solutions that can take the fan data you hold and use it to segment customers in various ways to market to them more effectively are the fastest route to improved ROI and reduced spend. The temptation can be to revert to “free” channels such as email, but often such channels can give misplaced comfort when trying to reach an audience. Here are just a few of the benefits of marketing automation:

Make it personal

Harnessing the power of a Customer Data Platform, or CDP, means you can store all of your data in one system and use it to produce hyper-personalised marketing. Focusing on small audience segments will pay dividends where you need a laser-targeted approach to reduce unnecessary outgoings. Often, one unified system will drive efficiency and significantly lower costs compared to multiple vendors.

Create bespoke campaigns

Beyond that, marketing automation can create bespoke, segmented campaigns that speak to your fans and can be the difference between days of tireless campaign creation and a few hours of tweaks to fully-formed campaign plans. 

Manage fan expectations

Just because your club is operating in a lower tier doesn’t mean your fans’ expectations are any less challenging. Automating vital customer journey elements can save valuable human resources to work on revenue-generating, while your cloud-based software deals with more mundane tasks. 

Keep the conversation going

Communication is also crucial. Knowing where your fans are active (and being able to meet them there) is essential if you want to convert a smaller fan base into increased revenue. That’s why omnichannel communication is a must. 

Manage your partners

And if external communication is essential, so is internal. You can’t afford to miss an opportunity or squander your budget on misfiring campaigns or partnerships. Ensuring your internal and partner messaging platform is up-to-speed and able to handle multiple complex conversations at once is crucial to ensuring nothing falls through the cracks and you don’t leave valuable revenue on the table. 

Keep everything under one roof

When considering a marketing automation solution, it’s important to think about how your software will function together. In an ideal world, using a single provider to deliver everything you need will provide a slicker, more integrated solution that performs more cohesively than five different pieces of software from five different providers. Inevitably, it’ll also be more cost-effective. If you can also integrate direct revenue generators like ticketing and payments into your overall solution, so much the better.


Our Ticketing, Mobile Marketing Cloud, and Mobile Service Cloud solutions deliver tools to help sports organisations automate campaigns, communicate with customers, and deliver genuine ROI more efficiently. If you’d like to talk to someone about how we can help your club thrive, get in touch and talk it through with one of our experts. 

Sport is about way more than just selling tickets.

Speak to an expert Learn more

Sport is about way more than just selling tickets.

Speak to an expert Learn more
Sam Windridge
Sam Windridge,
Head of Commercial Development

Sam is Head of Commercial Development for UK&I. Before joining the CM.com, Sam worked in the sports industry heading up commercial teams at London Irish, Fulham Football Club and Arena Racing Company. He is passionate about how technology and automation can enhance the fan experience.

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